Nowadays, it can feel like an uphill battle to attract the publicity your business needs. Local newsrooms are suffering, and company budgets are tight, leaving brands of all sizes struggling to work their media relations muscle. However, these challenges don’t change the fact that it’s essential to maintain as much visibility as possible, even on a limited budget.
Many of us wear many hats, and I’m no exception. As a professional PR agency owner and consultant, I urge every new or prospective client to invest in a PR program to elevate their brand. But as a budget-conscious business owner, I understand that sometimes it isn’t always feasible to do so.
There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for companies that want meaningful publicity but aren’t sure they can afford it, but here are some considerations.
Alternatives to Cutting Public Relations from Your Budget
When budgets are tight, businesses often look at their expenditures and cut what doesn’t appear to be yielding results, which can put PR on the chopping block prematurely. During these moments, it’s important to remember that PR is a long game and that it takes time, effort, and often some recalibration to get results. Choosing to stop watering a plant because it hasn’t flowered is never the right strategy.
I fully appreciate the fact that it can be frustrating to spend money without seeing an immediate ROI. In many cases, the best results in public relations come to those who are willing to be patient. Before you decide to cut the cord and re-allocate that piece of your budget elsewhere, ask these questions:
Am I working with the right agency?
If something feels off about your publicity efforts, it could be that your agency isn’t the right fit. Public relations work is so dependent on third parties (reporters, editors, and assignment managers green-lighting a pitch) that it’s sometimes tough for even the most seasoned professionals to manage. But if your agency isn’t communicating with you consistently, willing to pivot when a pitch isn’t resonating, or presenting fresh ideas regularly, it could be time to fire them.
I also need to point out that it’s a two-way street. If your company’s leadership has not made PR a priority and the entire burden rests on the PR firm’s shoulders, they may not be the problem!
Can we scale back without quitting?
If you’re happy with your PR firm, but your budget is prohibitive to a long-term arrangement, you may be able to find creative ways to scale back without abandoning the initiative completely.
Try to keep your PR efforts going even in a limited capacity. Starting and stopping over and over will prevent you from gaining momentum, use up your resources faster, and rarely get the desired results. Figuring out the right balance of small, consistent actions can yield success over time.
There are a few ways to approach your own “small but steady stream” of PR. One option is asking your firm if they can be flexible with your limited budget and make some recommendations that would work for their lighter workload and your investment.
For example, maybe the PR team focuses on writing and placing 2-3 byline articles per quarter rather than pitching upwards of 50 reporters every month. Or perhaps they post on social media 1-2 times per week and monitor engagement.
They may be able to help you in these sustainable ways, but don’t be surprised if their answer is “no.” Last month’s blog talked about how busy my PR colleagues are this year, and one of our top industry publications, PR Week, concurs, stating, “Agencies achieve record year as PR thrives.”
It may be in your best interest to hire a part-time staff member for the job or investigate smaller PR solopreneurs rather than a PR consultancy or agency.
If you choose to handle media relations on your own, consistency is key. Blogs, newsletters, and social media posts can help you stay top of mind for journalists and your target audience. Many big PR wins come from regular, persistent efforts to disseminate news, promote content, and share ideas.
Most successful companies rely on PR to elevate their brand, build buzz in their industry, and set a solid foundation to capture mindshare and market share. If you want help developing a strong media relations foundation for your business, get in touch with me today!